With all the success Sixpence None the Richer has had over the years, it would be easy for them to decide to quit while they’re ahead.
They have an impressive list of hit songs that have made them a household name, which is more than most artists would dare to dream of. Fortunately for us, however, Leigh Nash and Matt Slocum are not content to leave well enough alone. In the time since their previous album, they have further honed the artistic openness and honesty that they’re known for.
Their aptly titled Lost in Transition is an album that explores the themes of separating and reuniting that come directly from their experiences during that time. After many personal and professional trials and tribulations, Sixpence has given us an album that shows what it means to come out on the other side of life’s troubles.
Lost in Transition is more of an extension of their previous work than a departure from it, and what they have developed is a set of songs that show an ability to write with a renewed level of artistic sensitivity and sophistication.With the flurry of touring and recording, we were very grateful to steal a few minutes with Sixpence’s Leigh Nash to talk about turning out a new album and turning over a new leaf.
NYMM: Was Sixpence your first musical venture?
LN: I’m from Texas, near Austin. I grew up listening to old country music and really developed a love for it. That’s what made me start singing in the first place. I met Matt Slocum when I was in high school and we started making music together and that’s when I said goodbye to my future as a country artist.
NYMM: It seems that your sound has changed over time.
LN: It’s a maturation, as we’ve gotten older and wiser. We’ve been making music together for 20 years and I think the new album reflects that. It’s different from previous records. I don’t think the writing has completely changed, there’s not a major difference in the songs, but maybe in the treatment of the songs. It’s simpler, with less orchestration, and it’s more about trying to get the songs across. That was really important to us on this project.
NYMM: Has the songwriting process changed?
LN: I have opened up a little bit more and I wrote more on this record than I have in the past. That’s because I’ve become more confident as a writer myself. Maybe instead of confident, a better word would be comfortable. I respect Matt so much and I’m such a fan of his writing. I’m almost afraid to get involved because he’s so good. In the past, I’ve always been happy to leave it to Matt unless I have a song burning to get written, but I do write more now.
NYMM: Is there one in particular that was important for you to write?
LN: “Sooner Than Later” is a song I wrote with my husband, although he wasn’t my husband at the time. My father passed away a few years ago, very unexpectedly, and my husband, while we were still dating, went through that grieving with me. It was very traumatic. He played me part of a song he had written and it was about my dad’s passing. I was so moved by it. We finished the song together, and it’s one of my favorites. I know my dad would have absolutely loved it. He was one of the biggest Sixpence fans. That song will always be really close to me.
NYMM: “When You Call Me” and “Give It Back” seem to have similar themes. Where do those come from?
LN: My husband and I wrote “When You Call Me” together also. The words on that one came pretty slowly. I remember I was in the closet one day and I couldn’t get the melody out of my head, and some words came and we worked on it. All of these songs came out of this same period where a bunch of things in my life were shaken up all at once. A lot of those songs came out of the same emotions, which were grief and an overturning in my life. There was a lot of plaintive questioning and conversations with God and that song is sort of a conversation with God. Matt wrote “Give It Back.” I love it as well, and it’s also based on talking to God.
NYMM: Did you intend to have these songs line up thematically?
LN: Not really. I don’t think we realized how it was going to all mix together theme-wise until we got it done. I know as far as the sound, we had talked to Jim Scott (Producer: Wilco, Crowded House) about it before we got to the studio, and compared it to some of our previous recordings, which were a little more rushed. It’s great that it worked out that way.
NYMM: You’re about to do a lot of touring. Is that something you enjoy?
LN: I really love being on stage. Being in a van and driving around can get a little old, but I am looking forward to the touring. We have a really good time together, which makes a big difference. Basically, all of us have been on the road together doing this for over 10 years. Not solidly, but for some of us it’s been more like 16 or 17. Luckily, we all have a similar sense of humor and can laugh together, so we have a pretty good time.
NYMM: Are there any songs you especially enjoy performing?
LN: I really enjoy playing “Safety Line.” Actually, I really enjoy playing the whole new album. We’re doing a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat,” and it’s one of my all-time favorite songs. We’ve been starting off the set with that and it’s always a highlight for me. It’s nice to kick off a show with one of your favorites. We brought some of the older material out for these shows lately, and we’re playing one called “Love” that is from the self-titled album. We hadn’t played it for years, and now we are. It’s got some really colorful lyrics.
NYMM: You’ve had a lot of experiences in the music industry, what would you like to see changed?
LN: I wish piracy would go away. There’s some fairness issues that possibly need to be approached, because I understand that things are totally different now, and some of the changes are great and some things are better for artists than they’ve ever been, but I think the way records are obtained now really leaves the artist empty-handed at the end of the day, which is dangerous territory. I don’t feel like we ought to all be filthy rich, but it shouldn’t be so hard to pay bills when you’re working and people are listening to your music all the time and there’s a demand for it. What you get in return isn’t necessarily equal to what people are getting out of it. At the end of the day, though, I’m very thankful that I get to do this and that I have been able to make a living, meager though it has been at times, I’m still glad I can do it.
NYMM: Do you feel like you’ve been able to keep creative flexibility?
LN: We’ve always been good about not settling for deals where we felt like we wouldn’t have creative flexibility. We’ve been able to do what we wanted creatively, but financially, it’s not always the easiest thing in the world to get records made, etc. But I think we’re in a good position now to do things on our own terms. We’re working to get back in the studio and make a new record this year.
NYMM: Of all these achievements, what is the most rewarding to you?
LN: I’m most grateful for being happy and having a happy family. I have a platform and the ability to get music to people that I feel is important or beautiful. It’s wonderful to have a well-rounded life that includes being able to get my music out there.
You can find more Sixpence None the Richer here:
Lost in Transition is available through iTunes.
Body Image by Jon Karr
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